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Published: Thursday, November 1, 2012, 12:01 a.m.

Force bulb flowers indoors for a splash of spring

  • Forced paperwhites bloom in a large glass vase.

    Dan Bates / the Herald

    Forced paperwhites bloom in a large glass vase.

  • Aquarium rocks can be used to plant the bulbs. The pot needs to be solid with no holes. You can use a plastic insert in a ceramic pot to prevent leaka...

    JUSTIN BEST / The Herald

    Aquarium rocks can be used to plant the bulbs. The pot needs to be solid with no holes. You can use a plastic insert in a ceramic pot to prevent leakage.

  • Press the bulbs lightly into the rocks. More rocks can be poured over the bulbs, leaving about half the bulb exposed.

    JUSTIN BEST / The Herald

    Press the bulbs lightly into the rocks. More rocks can be poured over the bulbs, leaving about half the bulb exposed.

  • Keep water level to just above the halfway mark of the rocks.

    JUSTIN BEST / The Herald

    Keep water level to just above the halfway mark of the rocks.

It's gardening without getting dirt under your nails.
Get a pretty container. Add rocks. Plunk in a bulb or three.
Water.
And wait.
Water. Wait.
Repeat.
A stalk ever-so-slowly shoots up. Then, after four to six weeks, colorful blossoms erupt.
That's right. Spring blooms in the dead of winter.
The indoor growing process is known as forcing bulbs into winter bloom. Basically, it's inducing a bulb to do its thing out of its natural habitat and in a different season.
In other words, "forcing" the bulb to perform outside its comfort zone.
And it works.
Nestled inside a warm home, bulbs are tricked into thinking it is spring. This might seem plain wrong, but it feels so right.
The blooms add a splash of color to ease those gray-day doldrums. The project gives gardening addicts their winter fix and novices a swell of pride.
"Anybody can do it," said Kathy Burns, a sales associate at Wight's Home & Garden in Lynnwood.
Of course, some varieties of bulbs require more TLC than others.
Paperwhite narcissus ar practically foolproof , and smell good.
The bulbs are available now at many nurseries.
Pick and pinch them like produce at the supermarket.
"You want to get them firm, like an onion," Burns said, sorting through a bin of 99-cent paperwhites.
Bulb kits are also sold in ready-made potted containers. For example, bright red amaryllis, which are popular around Christmas.
"It really cheers you up," Burns said. "Right after the holidays, you're looking for that perk. That little pick-me-up."
Andrea Brown; 425-339-3443; abrown@heraldnet.com.

Paperwhites
Select anything from a clear vase to a shallow pot with no drainage holes. Whatever matches your decor or mood.
Pour in several inches of sand or clean pebbles.
Place bulbs root-side down. The pointy necks should be sticking up. If using more than one bulb, place almost touching one another.
Add enough tepid water to reach just below the bottoms of the bulbs. Replenish when the level falls by a quarter inch.
In a month or so … voila! You have blooms.
When the blossoms die, that's it. The bulbs won't flower again. Reuse the pebbles for the next batch of bulbs. Same time next year.
For information on forcing all kinds of bulbs, see Real Simple magazine's instructions at tinyurl.com/8tnetfn.


Story tags » GardeningInterior decorating

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